Gold Coast v Geelong – The Mongrel Review

Welcome to the First Game of the Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls Indigenous Round


Gold Coast Suns v Geelong


The Eighty Percent Match




Gold Coast Suns’ 80 Percent Team


At the start of the year, Damian Hardwick stated he had 80 percent of the pieces in place for the Gold Coast to be a premiership contender. His appraisal seems to be accurate in 2024, given the Suns inconsistent form thus far. It would be fair to say the Suns have been giant killers at home, while they are still babes in the woods when away.


The growth of the Suns at home has been plain to see this year, and having watched them a few times this year, I fully appreciate Dimma’s preseason statement. Some of the remaining 20 percent will come from natural the growth and maturity of the group, with getting more games into the kids, and extended gym sessions in the offseason, while the rest will come from some cunning strategic recruiting at the end of this year and next.


Geelong’s 80 Percent Team


Geelong is travelling to Darwin without Danger, without Jezza, without the Tomahawk and, without Duncan, who would all be automatic selections on any given weekend. By my calculations, which are based on absolutely no factual basis whatsoever, the absence of the four aforementioned ‘Top Guns’ means the Cats field a team tonight which is about 80 percent of their strongest possible team.


It will be interesting to see how some of the younger Kittens perform tonight in the Danger Zone without Maverick, Goose, Ice-Man and the other missing Top Guns.


My Tip – a TIO Stadium Dilemma 


I am literally tossing a coin for my selection. The climate in Darwin means by game time, TIO Stadium will be like a sauna – hot, sticky, with unbearable heat and humidity. Bloody humidity.


Every game I have witnessed a game from TIO Stadium, the humidity seems to suit some teams better than others. The Suns have won their last five at TIO and seem to handle to slippery ball better than most teams, while the boys from down Geelong Road have never played at the ground, so there is no form-line there as to how they will handle the conditions.


I am tossing a coin to ascertain my tip for tonight.  Heads, Dimma’s 80 percent Suns, Tails Scott’s 80 percent Cats.


It is heads – Gold Coast Suns to win!


A Win means more to the Suns than the Cats


All clubs, at one point or another, have matches which are bigger than just the four points. They are pivotal games that can be looked back on as the moment a club turned a corner. For example, in 2015, the Dogs had a win over the Swans at the SCG by four points in putrid conditions, a power club they had struggled with previously. That win at the SCG instilled a hardness and belief into the Dogs, which catapulted them to win the 2016 Premiership. On 2nd May 2015, the Dogs came to believe they were good enough to dream the dream.


The Gold Coast Suns need a win like the Dogs had in 2015. Dimma’s men need to prove it to themselves (not the footballing public) they are ready to start to mix it with the big boys, and this can in only happen by taking a big scalp in trying conditions, against a powerhouse club, against the odds, away from home.


No disrespect to the Cats, but they internally believe they are good enough, and to them this is just another match as they head towards the business end of the season. 


Win, lose, or draw, I will be critiquing the Suns a lot harsher in this review than the Cats tonight as this is the team’s chance to prove to themselves, they are good enough.


I selected to review this match several weeks ago, as I wanted to see what the Rising Suns could produce against an AFL powerhouse. While HB’s pet love is Fremantle, mine is the Gold Coast. Like a theme park rollercoaster, I have ridden many ups and downs waiting for the moment this talented group of players finally starts to realise its potential.


Let’s get the Sir Douglas Ralph Nicholls Started

They Cull Feral Cats in the NT



Forget Geelong’s inflated final score line as they as both teams slammed on seven goals in a last quarter score free-for-all as the Darwin humidity sapped the energy of nearly every player.


Make no mistake, the Cats were culled and culled badly by the Suns.  


If Port Adelaide cracked Geelong’s dam wall last week, the Suns absolutely smashed the dam wall down tonight. I am that excited to be writing this piece and I truly don’t know where to begin.


The Suns have learned a lot from last year


In the first quarter of the Suns clash against Carlton in Round 23 last year, the Suns jumped the Blues by 40-odd points early, only to be eventually run down by the Carlton mids and Charlie Curnow, who tore them apart after half time. The disappointment of that loss was etched on the faces of all the Suns players as they left the ground.


I feared for the Suns at halftime last night. I feared that the Cats might run down their 33-point lead. Make no mistake, teams have run down the Suns far too many times in the past, and the test for Gold Coast last night was going to be their third quarter and whether they would give the Cats a sniff.


In what was probably the Suns’ finest moment as a club, in the third quarter they slammed on eight goals to the Cats two. When the game had to be won this Suns team under Dimma stood up, and then some. The score at three-quarter time was 19.7. 121 to 8.7.55. I point this out as it shows how dominant the Suns defensive unit had been while the players up the ground plied their craft.

The Suns backs were dominant, and it was a shame the game fell apart in the last quarter under the extreme conditions in Darwin. The Cats final score does not do justice to the Suns defensive unit.


Sam Collins, Charlie Ballard, Mac Andrew (until hurt), Sam Clohesy, Bodhi Uwland, David Swallow, Alex Sexton (what a game by him), and any other who Sun who drifted down back, totally dominated the highly rated Cats forwards.


Yeah, yeah, the Cats were missing Cameron and Hawkins, I hear you cry, but really, cry me a river.


The Enigma that is Jack Lukosius


When the game had to won in the first quarter, Jack Lukosius’ was sublime. He will be heralded for his three goals in the opening stanza, but what impressed me more was his precision by foot around the ground. On his day/night Lukosius could land the footy on a 20-cent piece from 50 metres away, and tonight was one of those nights.


There was a passage of play when he was in the centre where he burst through the middle of the ground and spotted Sam Day up some 60 metres away. In that one piece of play I pondered the question how good this player could be if he had a bigger tank and started consistently in the middle. His class, skill, and precision, reminded me of Issac Heeney who is now basically the main man for the Swans midfield.


At this stage of his career, Lukosius doesn’t have the stamina to play permanently as a midfielder, but if the Suns are to improve 20 percent, then the continuing improvement in players like Lukosius is vital. He finished the game with five goals and multiple goal assists. 


Welcome back to form, Bailey Humphrey


I think sometimes people forget how young some players are, and they are critiqued if their form slumps a bit. While Bailey Humphrey may have had a quieter start to the season than the form his showed last year, tonight he took his opportunity to shine and bagged a Michelle Pfieffer. If Lukosius was the man in the first half, then it is fair to say Humphrey was the man in the third quarter booting three goals for the term as he his team slammed home their advantage.


Given the chance to start on the ground this week instead of the being the sub, Humphrey proved to Dimma and his teammates that he deserves to be in the starting 22 every week. At the age of 19, there is a lot to like this kid and his future.


Anderson, Rowell, Miller, Flanders – the new Fab Four


Noah Anderson – 42 possessions, Sam Flanders – 37 possessions, Matt Rowell – 35, and Touk Miller – 32 possessions. They literally tore this game to pieces from the very first bounce. They were ruthless as a quartet last night, and they put the football world on notice that a new Fab Four is on the rise out of the Sunshine State.


Noah Anderson is pure class, and along with Jack Lukosius, is one of the best precision kickers of the ball in the competition. His timing to be on the end of Rowell’s, Flanders’ and Miller’s grunt work was sublime last night, as was his disposal of the ball once it was in his hands. 


When Matt Rowell was injured and he was following Stuart Dew around with a notebook I thought he was the ultimate AFL nerd, a real Poindexter. Last year when he was chewing grass before games it reinforced my opinion that Matt Rowell is the AFL’s own Poindexter, but a bloody tough Poindexter at that. Rowell is fast becoming the master of the in and under player, and while I joke about his nerdiness, he is bloody tough (but fair) and as courageous a footballer for his age as the game has seen. 


I have watched Rowell closely now for a few years, and he seems to know where other players are in a pack are and how they will react. I firmly believe he has studied each potential opponent enough that he has well-rehearsed choreographed maneuverers to get out of any tight corner against any opponent. The notebook and grass chewing certainly has paid dividends for him.


While Touk Miller does his fair share of grunt work, he also very adept at being the outside player feeding the ball to his running playmakers like Anderson, Flanders as well as blokes like Sexton running up from half back. Miller is in All Australian form again this year.


Sam Flanders is a player who has flown under the radar of most for a few years now, but make no mistake, he is pivotable to the success of the Suns midfield brigade, and a worthy member of the Suns’ new Fab Four. Flanders is a good mark of the ball, and he is the player often used as the conduit to keep the ball in motion. On the surface last night, his game looked understated, but by games end he was probably close to being the best player on the ground.


The role of Flanders in the Suns team creates a dilemma for opposition coaches as he really needs to be tagged, but more often than not, he gets off the leash as opposition coaches tend to try and lockdown Miller and/or Anderson. Therein lays the conundrum for opposition coaches as the reality is all of the Fab Four need to be tagged.


The support acts to the Fab Four also have the ability to carve up opposition teams. Alex Sexton was superb last night, as was the run from Mac Andrew, while Thomas Berry (how many Berry’s are playing AFL football presently?), Ben Ainsworth, Sam Clohesy, Joel Jeffrey, and a few others role players linked up well supporting the main act.


The Suns list is starting to run very deep, and players have to perform every week to keep their place in the team. For example, when Mac Andrew got hurt in a clash of bodies with Bryden Fiorini and was subbed out, his replacement, Alex Davies, came on and had 12 second half possessions with 91 percent efficiency. Davies has now staked his claim to be selected in the starting 22 next week. It is a nice problem for Dimma to have.


When a Forward Line Clicks, it Clicks


I’ve said enough about Lukosius and Humphrey, but they were well supported by the rest of the Suns forwards.


It is rare a player kicks four goals and he is not mentioned in dispatches as being amongst the best of the ground, however such was the fate of Ben King last night. After a quiet first half, King kicked four second half goals as the Suns rammed home their advantage. I admired the game of King last night as he fought his way back into the game, which is the sign of a very good player in the making.


Ben Long kicked a couple as the crumbing small forward, while the last two inaugural players left at the Suns, Sam Day, three goals, and David Swallow, two goals, reminded the selectors they are still required players. 


Before I finish my critique of the Suns, I must mention the performance of the youngster Lloyd Johnston caught my eye, as did the performance of big man Ned Moyle. Moyle’s battle against Cats youngster Toby Conway in the ruck was a good watch, and both, given time, seem to have a future in the game.


Let’s talk about the Cats now.


The Darwin Screwjob


The Gold Coast Suns last night pulled one of the greatest ‘rope a dope’ performance of all time as they knew how to play the ground, the conditions and how to screw the Cats over. Orchestrated by the Vince McMahon of the AFL, Dimma completely screwed over the Scott Foundation and his Cats (it’s a WWE reference, some will get it). 


The Suns had been in Darwin for nearly a fortnight before last night’s game and had acclimatised to the conditions (which aren’t that much different to the Gold Coast conditions), while the Cats were coming from Melbourne which has been experiencing extremely cold nights and mild days. As soon as the Cats landed in Darwin, the heat and humidity would have hit them like a brick wall, and before they had time to adapt, they were playing a game of footy in extreme conditions.


“Run, run, and keep on running” was the the Suns mantra at the start of the match and they exhausted the Cats before they had time to settle.


While the Cats had a reasonable start to the match, the Suns ran them off their feet during the first quarter, and given the heat and humidity, the Cats looked and were well and truly cooked by quarter time, even though they led by a few points. The Suns literally ran them into the ground and forced them into error after error after the opening stanza.


In the second and third quarters the Suns exploited their knowledge of the ground and the conditions. Geelong handled the ball like it was a piece of soap, and herein is where the ‘rope the dope’ occurred. 


The Suns anticipated the Cats would have trouble handling the ball in the conditions, especially attempting any quick movement of the ball, or marking the ball over head. For the love God, the Cats could not hold onto their marks last night and the Suns were smart enough to anticipate the ball skidding through to the back of the contest while having then ability to kill the Cats on the rebound.


The normally reliable Geelong backs had a shocker as a collective last night and were often caught ball watching as their opponents walked into goals almost unopposed. The Suns rattled the Cats’ cage, and they had no answer all night as the Suns scored their highest score ever in the AFL.


The ever-reliable marking interceptor, Tom Stewart, had his second bad game in a row and he did not hold onto one mark for the night – think about that for a moment, we are talking about the great Tom Stewart. He wasn’t alone, as Zach Tuohy, who flashed in and out of the game also didn’t hold onto a mark, while Jake Kolodjashnij (who had a shocker) only troubled the statistician with a solitary mark, and Zach Guthrie, who tried hard only managed three marks. The only player in the Cats back half who could hold his head up last night was Oliver Dempsey who had 25 possessions and managed to hold onto five marks.


Can anybody tell me when the last time the Cats defence leaked 26 goals? It would be a long, long time ago.


Up forward Tyson Stengle kicked his usual three goals and played okay, but he gave away one of the dumbest 50 metre penalties I have witnessed and handed a goal to David Swallow on a silver platter. 


I had never seen Shannon Neale before, and if the Cats can take one positive away from last night it would the performance of Neale who kicked two goals, and more importantly, held onto five marks. Kudos also to the other Cat youngster Toby Conway who had 21 possessions.


Where were the Cats Leaders


Apart from Max Holmes and Gryan Miers, very few of the Cats senior players took charge when the chips were down last night. Holmes, Miers, and Oliver Dempsey, who showed maturity beyond his years last night in what was a grim night for the Cats, were easily the Cats’ best three on the night.


Brandan Parfitt has been in the system at Geelong long enough to be considered a senior player, but he is not a leader. Parfitt seems to play his best football when the team is up and about, and while he tried hard last night, he didn’t put his hand up as on-field leader in the absence of Danger and Co.


Cam Guthrie, who possibly should have been managed this week given he had only just come back after a long time out of the game, was subbed out after having a quiet night, while Mark Blicavs had little to no impact on the game. 


I’ve already mentioned Tom Stewart and the backs, so I won’t go there again.


Oooh, look at me, I am Gary Rohan!


Apart from Tom Stewart, Geelong’s most senior player on the ground last night was Gary Rohan, and he played like a hack. A second-half goal and a dashing run during junk time cannot disguise his overall lack of intensity throughout this game.


Cameron and Hawkins were out last night, and as such you, Mr Rohan, were expected to be the key player in the forward line, The Man so to speak, but you were missing in action, and not for the first time in your career.


Compare your game last night to Tom Hawkins who has struggled in the last few weeks. During that period nobody could ever question Hawkins’ endeavour to still compete and be a presence, even when he was having a shocker.


The Cats are on the brink of free-falling down the ladder as age and injuries catch up with them, and if they are to avoid the fall then the onus is on players like you, Gary Rohan, to be an example to the next generation and become a team first oriented player, leading by example.


I said on the brink, but the Cats have been there before, and only a fool would write them off just yet.


How Many Geelong Players Wear Alice Bands (head bands)?


At the behest of Mrs Mongrel, I received a message from HB during the game to raise this question in the article?


You’ve gotta love Mrs Mongrel who reckons the Alice Bands makes the Geelong players look delicate. I tend to agree. Tonight, the Cats certainly played like delicate precious little kittens.


Final thought, how great was it to see a match where 41 goals were kicked – it was a real throwback to days past.


Coming Up


Given the conditions of last night, I think both teams are vulnerable next as it may take more than a week to recover from this match.

Geelong hosts the Giants at GMHBA Stadium next Saturday in what shapes to be classified as an eight-point match, while the Suns leave the heat of Darwin and take on the Blues at Marvel Stadium (I have never been warm in that Stadium, it always seems to be cold in there).